Up to 14 million tonnes of unreported fish catches are being traded illicitly every year, costing the legitimate market between $14 and $26 billion in trade annually, researchers from The University of Western Australia and the University of British Columbia have found.
The research, published today in Science Advances, UWA’s Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean and the Fisheries Economics Research Unit and the Sea Around Us at the University of British Columbia, examined catch losses for 143 countries and found a significant amount of seafood was being taken, impacting the economy and livelihoods of millions.
UWA Professor Dirk Zeller, Director of the Sea Around Us – Indian Ocean said that huge volumes of fish catches were often processed aboard large foreign industrial vessels.
“They are then directly shipped overseas without unloading and processing in host countries, depriving local economies of revenue, income and jobs,” Professor Zeller said.
More accountability was needed to ensure sustainability of fisheries and that fish were legally caught and traded, he said.
Professor Rashid Sumaila, from the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the School of Public Policy, said the economic effects of the illicit trade in marine fish catch was affecting countries in Asia, Africa and South America who could hardly afford the loss.
“Those three geographic regions combined account for around 85 per cent of total catch losses to illicit trade globally,” Professor Sumaila said.
The researchers are calling for increased transparency through enforcement of international agreements including whole-of-industry supply chain accountability which they say is needed urgently.